For as long as he can remember, acclaimed pianist and writer Jonathan Biss has been obsessed with the late works of composers like Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and Schubert, written in the last years of their lives. What’s eluded him is why a young person by modern standards is so fixated on that final phase. Coda is Biss’s intimate interrogation of expression (both his heroes’ and his own) and a powerful ode to music’s ability to communicate the ineffable—even, one might say, a last word.
Pianist Jonathan Biss shares his talent, passion, and intellectual curiosity with classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. This season Biss continues his latest Beethoven project, Beethoven/5, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has co-commissioned five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s. In 2016-2017 Biss began examining, both in performance and academically, the concept of a composer’s “late style,” and has put together programs of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Elgar, Gesualdo, Kurtág, Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann’s later works, both for solo piano and in collaboration with the Brentano Quartet and Mark Padmore. In early 2017 he released the sixth volume of his nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas.
Biss studied at Indiana University and at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he joined the piano faculty in 2010. He led the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by a classical music conservatory, “Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas,” which has reached more than 150,000 people in 185 countries, and he will continue to add lectures until he covers all the sonatas. His bestselling eBook, “Beethoven’s Shadow,” published by RosettaBooks in 2011, was the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician.
Cover design by Adil Dara.